Are Skinks Poisonous or Dangerous?

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: February 4, 2022
Image Credit James DeBoer/Shutterstock.com
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Skinks are one of the best reptile pets to have. They are docile, quiet, gentle, playful, and easily trained. Besides, skinks are also low-maintenance, easy to care for, and low-risk, making them the ideal reptile pets for beginners and even children. But most people hesitate to take them in as pets at first because of the notion that they may be dangerous. So, are skinks poisonous or dangerous? All species of skinks are non-venomous and not poisonous, which makes them not dangerous at all. Skinks still have teeth, though, so they can bite when provoked. However, since they are not naturally aggressive, their bites will only be quick and not cause any severe damage. 

Skink Bites

cutest lizards red-eyed crocodile skink
Skink bites are often painless.

DWI YULIANTO/Shutterstock.com

Most people wonder if skinks bite before taking them in as pets. Skinks do bite because they have teeth and jaws strong enough to clasp against the skin. Yet, their bites don’t have to be a concern. Skink bites are often light, shallow, and pain-free. Skinks have about 40 small yet sharp teeth fused to their jawbones (pleurodont teeth). Although they are unlikely to bite because they are not aggressive animals, they may defend themselves through biting whenever provoked. Skinks do not possess sharp claws or strong limbs, so biting is their only weapon when threatened. 

Any lizard is capable of biting, and so are skinks. But skinks are usually passive and timid, so they do not just bite out of the blue. Their sharp teeth are primarily designed to capture their prey when hunting or feeding, but they also use these teeth to protect themselves from predators and other threats. When a skink bites you, this only means that it has seen you as a threat and acted in self-defense. Typically, there will be signs of a skink bite before it happens. The signals you need to look out for include:

Hissing – Most lizards hiss whenever they are threatened. They usually do this as a warning for you to back off.

Flattening their body – Skinks may flatten their body while hissing to look longer and more menacing.

Opening their mouth – While hissing, skinks may also open their mouths to threaten their adversaries.

Puffing up – Besides making themselves appear longer, skinks also use this strategy to make themselves look more prominent.

Flicking tongues – When you see skinks flicking out their tongue towards you, you might want to step back.

Since skinks are naturally not hostile, they will only bite if they are not handled well, when handled when they don’t want to, when someone has put fingers in their mouth, or when they feel threatened by you.

Are Skinks Dangerous to Humans?

Blue Tongued Skink Lizard, close-up.
Skinks bites are mild and pain-free, so they are not dangerous to humans.

Chris Humphries/Shutterstock.com

Despite their slight skin resemblance to snakes, skinks are not poisonous or venomous. Their bites are also mild and minor. Therefore, they do not pose any danger to humans. 

Skink bites are often painless and quick. These lizards do not intentionally try to break human skin when biting. Instead, they opt for an immediate clampdown to threaten their adversary. Usually, a bitten person might not even realize they are bitten and will only figure it out when they see a tiny puncture wound on the skin. Some skink bites may leave small blood blisters, while others barely leave scrapes. Skinks do not bite out of nowhere, so as long as you follow the guidelines to keep them unprovoked, they will certainly not bite.

Apart from having non-damaging bites, skins are also non-venomous, which means they do not emit any toxins from their bodies to spray their predators or threats. They are among the best pet reptiles because they are low-risk and are not poisonous to humans or any other animals. In the wild, skinks would rather flee or hide than fight and bite, so they are more likely to bite when threatened within cages or while being handled. Nonetheless, skinks’ teeth also don’t deliver venom.

Are Skinks Poisonous?

Crocodile Skink Lizard sunbathing on moss.
Skinks are neither poisonous nor venomous.

Kurit afshen/Shutterstock.com

Skinks are not poisonous, and they do not have any venom in their bodies that cause allergies or other symptoms to humans.

Bright colors often indicate how poisonous an insectamphibian, or reptile can be in the animal kingdom. All species of skinks share the same bright skin feature, which is why many assume they are poisonous. But contrary to popular belief, properly handling and taking care of skinks are entirely harmless.  

Skinks come in different sizes. Smaller ones are usually around 3 inches long, while larger species can grow up to 14 inches. The bite of a small skink feels like a nip on the arm or finger, while bigger skinks can break skin but do not cause any further damage apart from puncture wounds.

Are Skinks Poisonous to Dogs and Cats?

Giant blue-tongued skink lizard or Tiliqua gigas isolated on white background
In rare cases, eating a skink may cause Salmonella poisoning.

dwi putra stock/Shutterstock.com

Skinks are not poisonous when accidentally eaten by pets, including dogs and cats. As curious as they are, dogs may occasionally poke and eat skinks, but they are not generally poisonous and do not cause any lasting harm. On the other hand, cats are innate hunters and will sometimes be tempted to hunt and kill skinks. Like dogs, cats will not develop lasting symptoms from eating a skink. However, skinks may carry Salmonella bacteria in some rare cases, and eating a skink may cause Salmonella poisoning

Like most lizards, skinks eat various insects, ranging from cricketsbeetles to grasshoppers. Yet, skinks have their set of predators too. Besides biting with their sharp teeth, skinks use another self-defense mechanism by breaking off their tails to confuse predators.

How to Avoid Skink Bites

Skinks rarely bite, and if they do, it must be in self-defense. So, if you want to be cautious enough not to accidentally provoke your pet skink and therefore avoid getting bitten, you need to observe your skink’s behavior. Avoid touching or picking them up when they seem stressed or wary as they may get startled and bite. It is also an instinct to bite whenever someone puts fingers near the skink’s mouth. Their reflexes can drive them to bite, thinking that your hand is food. 

Five-lined Skink Lizard on the sand.
Five-lined Skink Lizard on the sand.
James DeBoer/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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